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Reading is something that I absolutely love. While I can do an e-reader, I do still prefer a book in my hands. The same is true when it comes to quick reference books. I have a special place in my heart for all the books that are meant to give you really quick answers and cut to the chase.

Yes, there is absolutely a value of having a book that has all of the details and discussion you could ever want. I read plenty of those, but sometimes, you just need an answer and then move on. That’s the kind of book you need in your labor bag or next to you in class. A quick reference book to give you some basics. You can always fill in the details later.

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This has lead to me to one of my favorite quick reference books ever, The Labor Progress Handbook: Early Interventions to Prevent and Treat Dystocia, now in its fourth edition. Originally written by Penny Simkin and Ruth Ancheta, this small but powerful book can give you a lot of great information when you’re short on time. Imagine you’re at a birth and you’ve spent hours trying to figure out how to get a baby to move down, you don’t need a lengthy diatribe on everything, you need a succinct list of positions when to try them and other basics. That’s this book.

As the subtitle suggests, the focus is on the early detection, prevention or treatment of labor dystocia. (That’s just a fancy way of saying lack of progress!) I don’t pick this book up at every birth, but when I need to grab it from my birth bag, I’m really glad it’s there. I also use it when I’m going back through a play by play of a birth in my head. Did I help the laboring person find the right positions? Would there have been a better one? Or even, why did that position we try work?

The current edition also includes Lisa Hansen, a doctorally prepared certified nurse midwife (CNM) and an appearance by Gail Tully of Spinning Babies fame. So it’s got a very well rounded look at a wide variety of topics. Here are some of my favorites, or at least often visited sections:

  • Coping with a swollen cervix
  • Cervical lip
  • If contractions are inadequate
  • Measures to alleviate painful, non-progressing, non-dilating contractions in prelabor or the latent phase

While this has more technical language than some pregnancy books, it is designed for birth professionals, including doulas and childbirth educators. It is not unfriendly to new professionals but may be a bit much for parents and families, though certainly not all. Here are some examples of sections that I think appeal to many newer birth professionals:

  • Maintaining mobility while monitoring contractions
  • Asymmetrical positions
  • Techniques to elicit stronger contractions

This book is a really great handbook to keep in your birth bag. It’s a great thing to put on your list of items to add. While it’s certainly not the first thing you’d need, I wouldn’t put it off too long, because it’s the type of thing you need when you need it and you just don’t know when that might be.


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